Isn’t living the Christian life like being a contestant on a game show. Everyone is happy! Everyone loves you and those around you are cheering for you to win. You receive health, wealth and prosperity. You overcome the vicissitudes of life. Or perhaps living the Christian life is like being a passenger on a luxurious cruise ship steaming on a long journey somewhere in the South Pacific. The passengers are sleeping in deck chairs, stuffing themselves from an endless buffet, enjoying a wide variety of entertainment and wallowing in ritual and tradition. Cheerful crew members prance through the corridors chanting peace and unity. But wait, is this really the inescapable, pervasive message of Scripture?
A theme that underlies the entire ministry of Jesus Christ is the apocalyptic assumption that God is battling Satan for all creation and the souls of all mankind. Jesus understood himself to be the one in whom this battle was to be played out in a decisive way. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and establish God’s domain. By the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, all creation was redeemed from the bondage of evil and each soul was offered redemption from the bondage of sin. But Satan was not a willing seller and is at war with God to retain possession. The outcome of the struggle was completely decided by the substitutionary atonement; yet few would claim Jesus has already restored and repossessed his corrupted creation. The world, at every level, is at war. Christians are on the front lines of this Great War between good and evil whether we like it or not. As we stand side by side with Jesus in this war, the suffering of the Christian soldier has a meaning and value to God commensurate with this titanic spiritual struggle of the ages.
At some point in time, God entrusted Satan and other powerful angels with the stewardship of all creation. They betrayed God’s trust and began to turn what God created as good into an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by decay, violence, disease, suffering and death. Although God could have simply restored and repossessed His corrupted creation, His purity of wisdom, holiness, justice and truth demanded a punishment for every evil and every sin. Only one punishment, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, was great enough to redeem all creation from the bondage of evil and offer redemption from the bondage of sin to all mankind. But Satan will never acknowledge the efficacy of that punishment. He is battling God to retain possession of that which was given to him (Luke 4:5-7). The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare. God the Son began the process of taking back his creation. For a time and within limits, God continues to permit certain consequences of rampant rebellion and the brutal corruption of all life. But He expects His people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army.
In these last days, Satan is making a ferocious attempt to demean God, discredit man and destroy God’s relationship with man in full view of all the angels in Heaven! Satan’s all-consuming purpose is to drive an irremovable wedge between God and man, to effect an alienation that cannot be reconciled. Satan claims the concept of salvation by faith, the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is a sham. God the Father should not have attempted it, Jesus Christ could not have legitimately paid for it and you and I, driven by our sin nature, could never receive it. According to Satan, it’s all smoke and mirrors so that God can save his wretched humans without appearing to compromise His own character. The accusation, once raised, cannot be removed, not even by destroying the accuser. If the salvation offered to every man and woman can be exposed as a perversion of wisdom, holiness, justice and truth, then a chasm of alienation would stand between God and man that could not be bridged. Reconciliation would be unthinkable. God’s whole enterprise in creation would be radically and irrevocably flawed; He could only sweep it away in awful judgment as He nearly did once before (Gen 6:5-7).
As integral players in this Great War, the course of our Christian lives must never elicit the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms to question the manifold wisdom, holiness, justice and truth of God.
Christians eagerly anticipate the denouement but the struggle is relentless!
Oswald Chambers, who was the most insightful, perspicacious, holiness teacher since John Wesley, summed it up this way:
“Life without war is impossible either in nature or in grace. The basis of physical, mental, moral, and spiritual life is antagonism. This is the open fact of life…Everything outside my physical life is designed to put me to death. Things which keep me going when I am alive, disintegrate me when I am dead…Morally it is the same. Everything that does not partake of the nature of virtue is the enemy of virtue in me, and it depends on what moral caliber I have whether I overcome and produce virtue. Immediately I fight, I am moral in that particular. No man is virtuous because he cannot help it…And spiritually it is the same. Jesus said, In the world ye shall have tribulation.” (Chambers, December 4th)
Given that you are immersed in this titanic struggle, what are your options?
- Could you declare yourself a neutral non-combatant and wait to see who wins? This is not an option; by the rules of engagement, all those who declare themselves neutral are assigned to Satan.
- Could you tell God you’re on His side but you’re really not very good at combat so you will relegate yourself to the role of bystander? This is not an option; by the rules of engagement, all those who declare themselves spectators are pushed off the bleachers and onto the playing field.
- Could you tell God you didn’t ask to be born into this struggle and it just isn’t fair? This is not an option; by the rules of engagement, you are in this struggle whether you like it or not.
But wait, didn’t Jesus say:
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light. (Mat 11:28-30)
So, as you strive to avoid God and remove yourself from the titanic spiritual struggle of the ages, remember, if you would only accept the great gift of salvation, you could exclaim the following, with life-giving relief:
I WAS LIVING IN BONDAGE TO SIN;
BUT MY HEART YEARNED TO BE BORN AGAIN.
I GLIMPSED GOD’S PEACE WHICH CONFOUNDS THE WISE;
AND REST FOR MY SOUL WAS REALIZED.
THE YOKE IS EASY AND THE LOAD IS LIGHT FOR JESUS CHRIST I BEAR;
COMPARED TO SATAN’S BONDAGE, CHRIST’S LOAD IS LIGHTER THAN AIR.
(See also Sections 5.1, 8.1, 8.13, 9.1 and 13.3 of Theology Corner)